*All information correct at time of publication but may be subject to change at short notice.*
Do I have to travel?
On occasion we may ask you to travel to training or to help with service at other locations if you are able to do so. Any issues with this should be raised at the interview stage.
Are there any application deadlines?
Yes. From our response to your initial contact we place a 6 week deadline for you to submit your application form. The 6 week deadline ensures that there is no unnecessary communication for those who are no longer interested. Please do not worry if for some reason you are unable to commit to us at that time as applications are taken all year round.
Those who have trained with another office and have now moved into our area will be asked to fill in our application form and make reference to previous Citizens Advice experience. Please contact your office and ask them for a reference letter and any of your training paperwork they may have to bring with you to your interview.
Where do I find the role profiles?
Role profiles are contained within your Recruitment and Application guidance.
Why is there no training at my preferred location?
Training is planned based on the demand of interested volunteers, therefore the training will take place at the venue where the majority of interested trainees are based. You can choose to travel and join in that intake or defer until the training is at your preferred location.
We also rely on the goodwill of external trainers and free rooms, for this reason not all training is able to run at all three sites.
Do I need to bring anything with me to the office?
We ask that all volunteers who attend training bring a pen (and a spare) and an appropriate folder to store the paperwork. At in-house training you are provided with workbooks, at the other sessions you will need to bring your own paper.
Why do I have to wait for training? Can’t you just train me 1-1.
It is neither cost effective nor effective use of the training team’s time and resources to train 1-1. We like to deliver the training to groups as we find that this allows you to bounce ideas around and learn from each other's experiences.
Why do you train to a generalist level and not specialist?
We train all of the volunteers to a generalist level to ensure a holistic service. However, if you have a particular background or skill ie a local landlord or held a HR or banking position you can then go onto train as a specialist but only after you have reached competency as a generalist adviser.
Why is there lots of different training ie head office, complimentary, in-house etc?
The bulk of the training is done in-house with the Training Officer. However, we are subject to audit which requires head office to deliver certain training sessions.
There are many other agencies out there that have specialisms in particular areas and we have secured free sessions from them to be delivered to you to broaden your knowledge.
Do I have to sit a test?
There is no formal test to sit, however there are online end of unit modules which are multiple choice which you will need to complete.
How do I pass the training?
The training programme is only a small part of you reaching competence. Throughout the training your knowledge will be tested through end of unit assessments and trainer led discussions, but there is no formal pass or fail. However, attendance at the training is compulsory for to progress to assisting clients by yourself.
We do work with you as an individual to reach competency.
Do I decide my role or do you? Why do I have to pass all roles?
Throughout the training and recruitment process it is hoped you will gravitate towards your initial preferred role.
We believe it is important and useful for all volunteers to have shadowed all roles to ensure that you are in your most suitable role. On a daily basis we need to be able to react to service demand such as covering volunteer absences or a sudden influx of clients. To do this, those wishing to assist clients are required to complete the reception training alongside the client focused roles to maximise service delivery.
All non client assistance roles ie reception, admin and campaigners will be solely undertaking the role they have trained for.
Can I do it all by self-study?
One course is designed to be completely self study. However, we do not recommend that all courses are done this way. A one off due to sickness or holiday could be acceptable but we do not recommend any more than that. The training is designed to be delivered in groups and we would strongly recommend this route.
Surely Head Office give you all of the training so it is easy to deliver?
The workbooks and lesson plans are all created in house and all material provided by head office needs customised to our offices.
You keep mentioning reaching competence - what does this mean?
Assessment of competence is indicative, that’s to say it is based on the assumption that if the trainee has demonstrated their ability in a reasonable range of activities in their role, they are likely to be able to carry out others using relevant job aids, such as AdviserNet together with appropriate supervision. The person making the judgement is the reviewer and is likely to be a member of the training team.
If a trainee is able to do most of the activities competently but hasn’t had the opportunity to do all of them, then it's reasonable to assume that they will be able to complete the other activities when the need arises.
For example, if an adviser has used Advisernet competently and the supervisor appropriately to advise on several benefit cases it's reasonable to assume that they would follow the same process to advise competently on other aspects that have not yet arisen.
This principle is the same whatever role the trainee is being assessed for.
What if courses have low numbers?
As training dates are sent out prior to training starting and volunteers are required to let the training team know in advance which sessions they will be attending, low numbers should be rare for compulsory courses. If however, we foresee having low numbers for any course eg due to bad weather we will notify everyone listed to attend via email as soon as possible.
Volunteers who do not attend or fail to notify us of non attendance, put considerable pressure on training resources. We rely on the goodwill of trainers and venues for free or subsidised sessions which may be withdrawn or incur a cost as a result of poor attendance.
We therefore ask that we are informed at your earliest convenience.
Why do sessions differ timewise?
We try to make the training accessible to all and allow time for outside activities. Where possible in house training sessions begin at 9:30, head office sessions always run 10:00 - 4:00 and the timing of the complementary sessions are guided by the trainer’s availability.
Do I need to attend the complementary training?
It is built into your Volunteer Agreement that you attend a minimum of two during your training where possible. All volunteers must complete 22 hours a year of compulsory training, which was directed to you by the Training Officer.
Why do I need all of this training?
Audit requires that all new starters to the service receive set training modules. CASL has devised their own 4 phase compulsory training programme that includes everything a new starter needs to know to deliver an effective service to clients.
Can I just get straight in and start seeing clients?
We have not yet met anyone capable of doing this. Even transferees need a few sessions as every centre operates differently.
What is the training style of the trainers.
As you will read in the volunteer testimonies in the Day in the Life of a Trainee section the in-house trainer makes her sessions fun and interactive and this involves group work. The training officer operates on a 60% trainee input and 40% trainer input basis.
You will be pleased to hear that the in-house training does not involve ‘death by powerpoint’.
All other trainers are friendly and all have their own training style and method.
Minimum numbers at training sessions?
In house training sessions are designed to run in groups of 4 - 8 attendees, where as head office sessions are 14-16 people.
Why is training on set days? I can’t do certain days.
Training is set to align with the availability of the rooms based on the delivery of service and trainer availability i.e we can only train on days when we have a room and trainer available at the different sites. We do encourage you to travel to attend training.
Is there pre-coursework?
Many of the head office training courses do require the completion of pre coursework. This will be sent out prior to the course via email by the training team.
Do I have to sign lots of agreements and policies?
We do ask you to sign several policies; Confidentiality, IT and H&S. Annually you are required to complete GDPR (data Confidentiality) and Work Station H&S policies.
Do you pay expenses?
We do pay expenses subject to a mileage cap and it is reviewed annually, this is currently 15 miles per one way trip. We do pay car parking costs.
What do you mean by confidentiality?
Clients come to us with sensitive and personal issues. We take confidentiality very seriously. What you hear in training and during service is not to be repeated outside of the citizens’ advice environment.
What is Engage?
Engage is the web system that we use for helping clients via email and webchat.
What is Casebook?
Casebook is our database recording system for clients.
Can I now advise family and friends once passed?
No. Often when friends and family find out that you are volunteering for the service, they may ask you for advice about personal situations. You should always direct them to the website or to contact the service. Do not give advice off your own back and not in an office setting.
I know the information and advice, why do I have to check the information systems?
Information changes are a regular occurrence, for this reason you should always check the information systems as these are kept up-to-date. You should never provide any form of information off the top of your head. Any information given that is not referenced will result in a fail at audit.
What is QAA?
The needs of people who use our service come first.The aim of everyone involved in helping clients to find a way forward is to provide a good quality service.Quality monitoring helps us all understand how well we are doing in terms of achieving this aim.
Quality monitoring is a collaborative process coordinated by Citizens Advice Quality Team. Local Citizens Advice reviewers carry out the quality reviews and the Citizens Advice Quality team quality assess the results.
QAA (Quality of Advice Assessments) examines the quality of advice given by volunteers on individual cases dealt with by a local office. QAA is based on the principle of peer review - quality of advice assessments made by assessors from advice sector backgrounds who possess the necessary knowledge, skills and experience. The assessment will usually be based on a check of 60 case files per quarter. The QA Assessor will fully assess the topic for which the case is chosen, but will comment on the effect of advice given or missed with regard to other related topics under ‘overall impact'.
The quality criteria used to assess the advice are:
- advice / options
- support / action
- casework management
- overall impact for client.
Each of these criteria is scored by the Assessor on a scale of 0-3 good, met and poor. The Assessor is required to describe and justify why these scores have been given. The results from each case assessed are aggregated and the overall results presented. Results are, therefore, both quantitative (percentages of good, met etc.) and qualitative (the Assessor's commentary on the advice given). Standard forms are used by the Assessor to ensure consistency in the use of the method.
Why do we have to keep client records?
Keeping client records is very important. Firstly it saves the client having to restate their issue. Secondly, it provides CASL with a written version of the client’s case, which ensures that the information given is correct and it is an audit requirement.
What do I wear?
You should look smart and professional but a shirt and tie is not necessary. Please be mindful of any logos and slogans on your clothing that may cause offence.
What is the time commitment?
Once the training has finished, we ask for a minimum of 6 hours per week. This can be one full day or two half days.
How many staff and volunteers do you have?
We currently have 136 volunteers, 9 trustees and 26 paid staff members.
What ongoing training and support is there?
A challenge that we face is on going changes to the enquiry areas ie new benefit changes or changes to employment tribunal fees. To help the service, staff and volunteers the training team put on extra training sessions and ongoing refresher courses.
I know someone waiting in reception, what do I do?
This depends on how well you know the client waiting. If you live in the same town as where you volunteer it is inevitable that you will know some of the clients. However, there is a big difference between knowing a client and recognising them. If you know the waiting client you should inform a staff member and they will get someone else to see the client and you to see the next one.
All training will start at the advertised time if you arrive late you will have to catch up the break.
Good time-keeping is paramount eg we cannot open without a receptionist and clients will have to wait if volunteers are late.
If you are ill or unable to attend training, or service please ensure that you ring the office at your earliest convenience.
If you book a holiday please ensure you let the office and the training team know as soon as your holiday dates are confirmed so we can arrange coverage or self study packs as appropriate.
What if I decide it isn’t for me?
If after starting you feel that volunteering isn’t what you thought it would be, please come and talk to us, it may be that you are in the wrong role or that the service isn’t right for you. We will try and make arrangements for you.
We have volunteers in the past who have left without letting us know and this has had a huge impact on our delivery of service. If we know, we can make arrangements for someone to cover.
Do I need to sign a contract? Volunteer agreement and training agreement
We do have a volunteer and a training agreement which will be sent out to you prior to you committing to our training programme, we do ask that this is signed along with all other policies and procedures provided to you.